The Cavs should use their shocking playoff exit as fuel

Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, Cleveland Cavaliers. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

Remember when Thanos snapped his fingers and defeated the Avengers in Avengers: Infinity War? Remember that unexpected feeling that ran across the theater when that happened? That is exactly how I feel about the Cleveland Cavaliers playoff loss to the New York Knicks.

It is not the fact that they lost the series in general, as both teams were very evenly matched and this was the fourth seed against the fifth seed. It’s the way the Cavs lost that shocks me the most.

Losing in five games? Really? Getting outmuscled for four out of the five games in the series? Seriously? Donovan Mitchell looking human in the playoffs? This had to be some sick joke from the basketball gods. Junkyard dogs? More like puppies. The Cavs looked overwhelmed, and outmatched on the big stage. The Knicks simply just wanted to win more than they did.

They did the little things better as well, and no one expected the Cavaliers to get dominated the way that they did. What needs to be seen though is how this team will respond. How will they overcome this obstacle?

As I said before the postseason started, the inexperience the Cavs had on their roster would be one of their main obstacles. Darius Garland, Isaac Okoro, and Evan Mobley were all playoff newbies and it showed at times.

Garland had 18 turnovers this series. Mobley looked overwhelmed at times on offense. Okoro was good defensively, but an offensive liability once again. Guys that were more experienced in Donovan Mitchell, and Jarrett Allen, did not play up to their standard.

Mitchell, who is a career 28 point per game scorer in the postseason, averaged a pedestrian 23 PPG this series and only shot 29% from three-point range. That was not what I expected from the Cavs’ superstar. As for Allen, after grabbing a combined 24 rebounds in the first two games of the series, he grabbed 13 rebounds for the rest of the series. 13 rebounds over three games. That is unfathomable for a guy that gets paid $20 million per season.

Allen expressed how he was to blame for the Cavs’ rebounding issues. Well, he certainly wasn’t up to par there, and for that, among other reasons, now he has many questioning his place on the team. In addition to the young core, Cleveland’s bench was almost nonexistent in this series.

Cedi Osman was barbecue chicken on defense, as he was ruthlessly hunted by the Knicks on screens. Ricky Rubio looked old, out of place, and better off in retirement. Poor Danny Green, who is one year removed from a torn ACL, looked like he had nothing left to give. Lastly, J.B. Bickerstaff was out-coached and outsmarted by Tom Thibodeau and did not adjust accordingly. It is not all his fault, as he was given melted ice cream for a bench and was told to make a sundae. All in all, it was a bad series for the Cavs.

While this postseason run did not go as expected, let me remind all of you of how far these Cavaliers have come, and how this can be used as motivation for what’s to come.

The Cavs have come a long way, and even with the playoffs being disappointing, they can and need to use that as fuel for the offseason.

In 2018 and 2019, the Cavaliers won a combined 38 games. They went 22-50 in 2021. They improved to 44-38 last year and made the Play-In. This year, they won 51 games, clinched home court advantage, and went to the playoffs without LeBron James for the first time in over two decades.

The nucleus of the team (Garland, Mitchell, Mobley, Allen) are not close to 30 years old yet. Every young team goes through their growing pains. In order to win, you have to learn how to lose. This will be a huge learning experience for this roster. They needed to taste the playoffs and what it felt like. Now, they have to use it as fuel in the offseason.

Hopefully the roster improves and needs are addressed, in addition to all the hard work put in. Regardless, this should be seen as a stepping stone for the Cavs. This is a hard lesson learned. There should be no overreactions like firing Bickerstaff, trading Allen, or firing Koby Altman.

If this was a team well into their championship window, those takes would be valid. However, the Cavs have just entered their championship window. This team is not far removed from the lottery. They are ahead of schedule.

3 Cavs that earned untouchable status, 4 that should be cut loose. dark. Next

This season was not a failure. The way they looked in the playoffs was bad, but the future’s still bright in the Land.